Vanuatu has a rapidly growing, mostly rural population spread over 80 islands which makes it very difficult to provide health services. Cataract is still one of the major causes of blindness and almost 60 per cent of people with diabetes have diabetic retinopathy.
In 2001 we launched the country’s first national eye care programme. Before this there was one eye clinic with a part-time eye nurse using outdated equipment. Over the next five years we trained eye specialists, set up two surgical centres, and equipped four provincial hospitals with eye care clinics.
In 2015 the Ministry of Health agreed to help us reach our goal of training three new eye doctors by 2020. The following year we began training Dr Kasso who is expected to graduate in 2018. When he returns home he’ll be the nation's first eye doctor.
We’ve established a diabetic retinopathy programme in Port Vila, with visiting eye doctors working closely with local Foundation-trained eye nurses to screen and treat diabetic retinopathy patients. Our Pacific outreach team continues to visit to address urgent eye care needs.